How Do I Love Thee
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach when feeling out of sight
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, -I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!-and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
Today I write about abiding love – the love of a parent for their child, no matter the calamity, no matter their age – the love for a spouse that has gone cranky because of life’s challenges and is almost impossible to live with – the love that keeps the cookie jar full of homemade low sugar molasses and oatmeal cranberry cookies, and rubs cream on swollen testicles. Abiding love is the foundation of a meaningful life. It can be relied on.
At my mother’s 70th birthday celebration, almost 20 years ago, my Dad appeared at the entry to the living room resting an old leather bound volume open on his left hand. The room was crowded with friends and loved ones who sat spellbound as he asked our permission to have the floor.
He cast his eyes first to his beloved then down to the page and began reading in a deep, husky voice, each word delivered with the gravity of a wedding vow. It was as if they were alone.
Dad’s dedication was also demonstrated to his family as he mowed the lawn, seeded the garden, washed the windows, built a driftwood teeter totter, or fixed the broken toilet. He showed it as he stood with his toothy grin barbecuing salmon for the throngs that would gather, sometimes spontaneously, to enjoy the spirit of the family home.
Our Dad was a wholehearted guy in everything he undertook, and he was not an idle man. Besides being a dedicated to his family, he was also a keen writer, poet and philosopher, and his wife was his Queen. He knew how lucky he was she said yes those many years ago when he wooed her with poetry, roses, and those Paul Newman eyes of his.
This is the love that Creation intended. It gives life to life, and offers peace by asking nothing. It’s generous. Love shared and showered upon those we care for, provides the anchor for our dear ones to grow. In this space it’s possible to cast aside a frantic world where speed and perfectionism block true connection, and the romantic love of earlier years is emboldened, becoming deep affection.
It takes small but continuous effort to nourish the gift of a loving relationship, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or grandiose. Carefully chosen words encourage, a smile sends light into darkness, and a small gesture of kindness provides much needed solace.
Freely given and received, love is the ultimate expression of grace, and abiding love is the glue that provides meaning and longevity. It`s perfectly imperfect.
About 10 years after this event I was inspired to write a poem for my Dad in recollection of that evening, as well as other times I witnessed his passion spontaneously ignite a room. An old boyfriend once told me he remembers an evening, while enjoying a meal together with the family, when Dad leapt out of his chair and burst out into verse. Yes, Dad’s passion made memories.
Although Dad and I are quite different people, we share a love of writing, especially poetry, and when “Passion” fell out onto the page it made me realize Dad and I were perhaps more alike than I thought. What I am sure of is our family understands what it means to live with abiding love.
Tonight he quoted
Shakespeare on the
phone with me
during an everyday
just thrown in
as if normal
that an 80 year old
relevant 400 years
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
read aloud at
the celebration of his
In awe and breathless
at this public declaration
of pure love
we weep openly
and strengthen silently
I am renewed and
grateful for the depth
of love that birthed me
and steadfastly stands
It is all about love
at the bottom.
Be well, friends. I hope abiding love is somewhere in your lives, with your partner, a parent or sibling, or a dear friend.
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